Friday, 31 January 2014

The "Real" Jacket: Progress/Disaster

As the title suggests, I have cut the fabric and started sewing the jacket that I have to hand in tomorrow. It was going quite well until last night. Have you ever done two stupid things at once? Last night I sewing a bound buttonhole on the leather part (so far so good) only to find afterwards that I had sewn it on the wrong side of the jacket, and I had sewn it at a funny angle.

I tried to repair this by first unpicking the buttonhole, and then using various fusible products and methods to seal it up. It sort of worked, but I know that it would knock my grade down if I handed the jacket in like that, so I'm going to try a creative solution: I'm going to cut a section out and replace it with a bias-cut diamond of the check wool so that it looks like it was supposed to be like that. It adds a bit more interest anyway. I'm glad I only did it on the underlap -- I wouldn't want to have to redo half the front!

That would also allow me to do window buttonholes instead of bound ones if I want and would work better with the buttons I've chosen (shank buttons with thick shanks). I'll decide as I go along.

The Next Day...

Last night was a nightmare filled with gremlin buttonholes and their accomplices, the buttons. Joining the legion of seamstresses perils were facings that didn't fit, corners that wouldn't turn, and things that wouldn't lay correctly. Through tears and nearly-silent sobs I saw buttonholes that not only were wonky, but also that were not level (now one is higher than the other). By the time I got to sleep it must have been two in the morning, and tiredness doesn't help matters.

I wore the nearly finished jacket to Bishop Burton College (it was easier than carrying a garment bag on the bus) and finished it in class. This mostly consisted of understitching, but also featured sewing the lining closed in the CB pleat (by machine) and removing loose thread ends that reared their ugly heads.

It worked out passably (except, in my eyes, for the buttonholes). Everybody likes the jacket, but I have an eagle eye and standards that usually exceed my work. I'll put it down to a lack of experience.

What I've Learned About Working with Faux Leather

  • Scotch-tape is your best friend when you're working with non-wovens. It keeps things like bound buttonhole patches/lips in place. You can use it instead of pins when cutting (it's best to cut one layer at a time), and you can draw buttonhole-placements on it. The difficulty is in removing it when you have several layers in a corner or seam. Amazingly, it doesn't gum up your machine needle!
  • You can unpick stitches. You can heal the holes with the iron set on cotton and just using the tip of the iron over a press cloth.
  • Princess seams must be carefully matched at each end and all along as you sew. This is one of those things you have to show rather than tell, but I'll try to explain it better than that. With one end of the seam started at the machine, match up the other end and pretend to sew it with your fingers -- a bit like walking a pattern to true it -- and when you get near enough to the presser foot, hold the part of the seam together, using your fingers as pins/quilter's clips. Repeat until you get to the other end. This sounds like a lot of fuss, but it's much better than unpicking and resewing endlessly and leaving it to luck.
  • The only way to get the seam allowances to lie neatly is to topstitch them. I actually had very little trouble sewing on the RS of the faux leather with my standard foot #1 on my Bernina 380. Sometimes I had to lengthen the stitch, but I think that was after I had ironed the fabric (I know, I know, "don't iron plastics", but it was fine most of the time).
  • Bound Buttonholes are best. Yes, you can do leather "fake" buttonholes, but I feel that bound buttonholes are stronger. Just make sure you mark your fabric according to your pattern. I think a China marker would be good for this but I don't (yet) have one. I think lack of proper marking was where my disaster began. 


Do you think there is a curse on buttonholes that makes the test ones perfect and the real ones iffy? My test buttonhole was absolutely perfect, well, from what would have been the outside of the jacket anyway.

The secret to keeping the buttonhole's lips in place when you've positioned them? Scotch-tape! Brilliant product! I wish I could buy it in bulk. You peel it off afterwards.

I was wondering how to finish the back of the buttonhole, i.e. on the facing. I first considered finished the back the regular way, but it wasn't very neat in the plaid I used for the facing, and was quite unsatisfactory for the blue wool (who knows why I tried that for the sample!).

In Viyella I saw a jacket with bound buttonholes and they had regular buttonholes as the backing for them. Now, Viyella is an expensive store (about £300 for a plain red dress), so I suppose this passes for an acceptable RTW way of finishing a bound buttonhole, so I opted for this. I presumed I would have to fasten the outer buttonhole to the inner one somehow and tried stitching the bound buttonhole stitch on top. It's a much appreciated feature of my Bernina 380, but when you change stitch selection (as I did to sew the standard buttonhole), the auto gets deleted and you have to pay attention to where your rectangle stops or this happens:

Sadly the buttonholes did not go to plan. I made angled bound buttonholes to accommodate the chunky shanks, and the buttonholes on facings did not cover the facings' WS, even when I got them to match in position. I stitched over them with the manual buttonhole and that improved it.

I have handed the jacket and toile (along with my 3 bursting production pattern cutting leaver arch files) in now, so the photos will have to wait about 3 weeks. Sorry. But I do have these that I took before I bagged the lining. (I was too upset with the jacket after that.) I stuck the buttons on to see how various ones looked.

(The jacket is not blue!)

These are the photos from before the bagging. Naturally the collar and lapels now look a bit smaller because the seam allowances are inside, and the hemline seam allowance is inside too. As you can see, I really ought to have had more turn of cloth allowance in the top collar. Never mind; I can't do anything about it now, can I?

Because the buttons are just stuck on here, they are level. They look better here than in the finished jacket.
We'll see if I wear it out of the house.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Uniform 2020 jacket toile completed

And it's pretty good. There were a few hiccups, but that's why we make toiles. It's not particularly interesting to see the photos of the separate lining and shell because they're nearly the same to look at (both are in calico), so I'll show you the finished toile.
For reference, here's the pattern envelope I made on Photoshop:

The Front.
Now, the collar doesn't quite match the tech for the design and the buttons need to be a bit farther apart, but apart from that I think it's quite good.

The Back
I don't think the lower edge matches the tech either, but the CB zigzag comes up quite high. Maybe I should elongate the points a bit, about 1.5cm or so...

After trying on the shell pre-lining, I thought the sleeves stuck out a bit, so I "shaved" a centimetre off the top and it looks more like the tech now. Naturally that meant reducing the sleeve cap on the lining too.

Speaking of the sleeves, check out this range of motion (I had raised the armscye under the arm):

How many blazers let you do that comfortably? This jacket is designed for horse-riding as part of my Uniform 2020 project so it has to have a great range of motion for mounting and so on. Not that I (currently) ride horses myself, but I still have to reach the higher shelves at the Co-op for drinking chocolate, and change lightbulbs etc.

Bagging a lining is great. It's so much quicker than hand inserting one, and efficiency with quality is paramount at Degree level. Lining the sleeves is something you can only really understand when you try it. There was no hand-sewing involved in this jacket except correcting a little error at the notch on the collar. The button-sewing feature is a greatly loved feature of my Bernina 380. : )

As for the "hiccups", (and I still don't know how this happened), the side seams on the lining didn't match and the front armscye didn't true with its sleeve counterpart. But I think I've fixed these problems now, and I've given the lining a plain sleeve cap -- for some reason I had given it a darted head like the shell; I can only suggest I thought it might add a little support to the shell.

Nearly the whole thing is block fused, and more than once I have fused the incorrect side of a piece and had to remove the fusing and then re-fuse it (thought I'd better hyphenate there).

Now I have to:
  • make the final pattern
  • source and buy fabric (preferably British-made)
  • make a costing sheet
  • make the real jacket (I have until the 31st January to hand it in)
  • possibly cut the "extra" entoilage patterns (for things like the chest piece)
  • write a sewing order list with an order to minimise bulkiness and awkward seams
And on top of that:
  • annotate this stage in the making
  • write contents pages for my pattern cutting files
  • press the contents of the files to minimise the bulk
  • make an in-pocket zip sample and tutorial

Monday night (technically Tuesday morning), I didn't get to bed until after 2am because I was working on my illustration module. I had to get up a ten to seven so I didn't get much sleep. Maybe it's that I'm only 23, but I can occasionally run on that. I managed to just about get the module finished by the last available minute. Everyone else (they drive) but one stayed late to finish. I'm glad that's handed in now, because it gives me time to work on the Pattern cutting module (my favourite). If I've time I'll make a vintage bustier dress and hand that in too; we might get to help with a charity fashion show at Easter if our sewing is good enough.

The quality of our finished garments really depends on the quality of our patterns. That's one of the things I love about production pattern cutting: you can virtually guarantee quality and eliminate wasted fabric! Especially when you have the right fit beforehand. Thank goodness for! If I hadn't found that what would I have done?

Well, I must go and make my sandwiches for tomorrow, not to mention make dinner for tonight.


P.S. I'm thinking of what do when I finish this course. I'm considering the UCA for my BA Hons, or else London. What do you think? Have you been? I think I'll probably have to go down South because that's where the majority of the work is, not to mention the fabric shops.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Trying the Metric Pattern Cutting Trouser Draft

This pattern lived up to its reputation. The toile was hideous. Yes it fitted, but it still looked horrible. See for yourself (the photos are a bit dark though):

You'd think the pattern was developed to make us change it. This is one toile that is definitely not wearable, and will definitely need a lot of restyling. Naturally the first thing I did was take them in by an inch at each hem, and 3/4" at the knees. So that's a total circumferential reduction of about 10cm at each hem and 8cm at each knee.I only did one leg to begin with:

It's better, but still a bit baggy looking. Another centimetre and with a total hem reduction of 14cm, and a knee take-in of 12cm, I think I've just about got the "slim-fitting slacks" silhouette of the 1960s:

Now, I can tell you that these are not comfort trousers, at least not when made in calico with a non-stretch cotton tape waistband. They would definitely have to be made in stretch fabric (that has been repeatedly pre-shrunk) to be wearable. I'm wearing the toile now and the waist band will leave a line across my stomach. But that's probably that; if you want comfortable trousers in non-stretch fabric, they have to be loose-fitting. Guess why I like skirts. 

I will try the "close-fitting trouser block" next. I am doing these for my Pattern Cutting file (I have three now) but it's extra work to get me into those 90%s. : )

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Uniform 2020 jacket continues...

Yesterday I drafted a two-piece sleeve block, sewed a toile and took it in. Then I adapted it to make a darted sleeve head as per my design. I intended that there be no ease in the sleeve cap; it should have been taken out in the darts, but there is still some in there.

 But to the beginning. A day or two after I pinned the style lines on, I pinned them carefully and completely, snipped the tape at the jacket's opening so that I could remove the jacket from the stand, and machine basted the tape on.

After a while I thought the best way to transfer the lines to a copy of the pattern would be to lay a copy of the pattern on the dress form (while it was wearing the jacket), and draw them on. It wasn't very neat but I sorted that out afterwards.

Now I have a first working pattern of the jacket. Given the Princess seams at the front have been moved and have therefore affected the fit, I'll have to make a toile or possibly two more, and keep updating the pattern. Perhaps I'm going about this the long way, but I want to be sure of getting the style lines just right.

This is the back of my jacket toile with one plain two-piece sleeve and one darted head two-piece sleeve (the one you can see). You can't see it in the picture, but I have drawn on it the new lines I want: the back sleeve seam must start higher up to match the Princess seam, and the sleeve head darts must also move. I'm not sure whether the sleeve is right, i.e. matches the tech drawing.

The next thing I have to do is alter the sleeve pattern, then make a toile of the jacket design. It will  need correcting, but parts of this jacket will be made in leather-like fabric so I have to get the fit right now in calico.

Apart from this I also have to work on my illustration module. My current collection's concept is the Human Body (I was given this concept, I didn't choose it), and the style is couture 2014 for a single woman in her 30s who will spend £950 on one garment. This imaginary person must have a good job! I don't think all my clothes together cost that much!

Part of the work for my sketchbook was to try different illustrations styles, and I have done three examples of stitched illustrations. I like the last one best:

It looks better in real life. : ) The blouse, skirt and wings are appliqu├ęd on. The music from her horn is made with some of the special stitches on my Bernina 380. I couldn't find a stitch that was perfect for her eyes, so I've left her as a silhouette. I like it that way though. I think it looks contemporary and pretty at the same time. I think it would suit a little girl's room.